Virginia Woolf's semi-biographical novel, inspired by her life changing love affair with Vita Sackville-West, takes us on an exhilarating, fantastical roller coaster, tracing 400 years of English history, in the company of her shape-shifting, gender-bending, time-travelling hero Orlando, whose inner conflicts and triumphs challenge our preconceptions of the nature of love, the battle of the sexes, posing socal and metaphysical questions including what we now call climate change.
Public Domain (P)2014 Aquarium Audio Books
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"A Strange Inexplicable Tale, Beautifully Narrated."
The story begins in the 16th century, when Orlando is a young man—emphasis is put from the beginning on the fact that he is indeed of the male sex at this juncture. We learn many details about Orlando and how he came into his stately family home, of his character, of his evolution in the world, from a aspiring writer to one of QE1's great favourite. I quite enjoyed this first part of the book, which was lush in period detail and psychology—enjoyed it that is until He inexplicably became a She after a long sleep. I then somehow lost interest as the centuries wore on and with Woolf's falling into more of an exercise in writing than the telling of a story, or so it felt to me. Both the sex change and Orlando's presumed immortality were never explained, the passing of time simply indicated by some changes in technology, with some characters having passed away, while a few others were also immortal and also went through an inexplicable sex change. Was Woolf perhaps trying to represent her version of reincarnation?
I know this is a very well respected book and also considered to be one of Woolf's most popular and accessible books, though I can't agree with the latter adjective. It was written for Vita Sackville West, with whom Woolf had a love affair, but having no background on their relationship and having not read their correspondence, I couldn't begin to guess how the book was a tribute to her erstwhile lover, or why it is considered to be one of the best lesbian fiction books, or even a feminist one for that matter. In short, I was less than taken with the whole, so I'll stick to Mrs Dalloway and A Room of One's Own as my two favourite Virginia Woolf books thus far. On the other hand, the excellent narration by Veronika Hyks kept me going and I very much hope we'll be finding more audiobooks narrated by her in near future.
"Overwritten and plotless... or trans theory?"
Another classic I had to read for a research project. And I liked it even less than I thought I would. I have no idea why the "experts" rave about this so much... as a lesbian love letter to someone "in the know" (i.e. they have a clue what Woolf was going on about) maybe it is okay. But as a story?? not so much... there is no plot and no suspense...
Basically it is a biography of a woman who pretends to be a man so she can have sex with women (and some transgender theorists claim she was transgendered but I didn't see this, I just saw a lesbian trying to live as a man in a world that didn't allow lesbians) and writes page after page about their clothing, their culture, their houses, their roads, their scenery.... ad nauseam.
Again, I tried to read this in text form but the paragraphs are very very long and it was hard to keep my place without my eyes glazing over in boredom, so I got it in audio... which was better only because my eyes no longer hurt.
The narrator was fine. It is just an overwritten story that is not nearly as interesting to "regular" readers as it would have been to its target audience (Woolf's lover), or perhaps to theorists interested in lesbian fiction, or transgenderism in fiction, etc... and, of course, it is a classic so there is nothing graphic in it.
The writing and performance are exuberant and delightful! There's nothing quite like a well written passage, and this book is brimming with them.
To say speechless and then find something to say ! An astounding piece of literature though I don't think I could have got through it without Juliet Stevenson's brilliant reading.
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